The Best Books of 2016

best-books

The 18 books you need to read this year, as selected by the well-read staff at Boomerang Books (and our 11 year-old reviewer!)

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commonwealth

BEST FICTION

COMMONWEALTH BY ANN PATCHETT

Ann Patchett is fast becoming one of my all-time favourite authors, and Commonwealth takes her talent to a new level, totally engrossing you in the lives of two families who themselves get tangled up over the years due to a few choices of fate.

The novel opens in 1964 at a seemingly innocuous christening party. An uninvited guest arrives bearing a bottle of gin and a chain of events gets set in motion. Patchett jumps around with her timeline and doesn’t immediately follow the most sympathetic characters choosing instead to flesh out the least as you piece together how two completely separate families join together and how a tragic event begins to unwind them apart again.

Ann Patchett has written a novel of immense beauty, charm, sadness and tragedy. She will have you laughing out loud as you read one minute and wiping a tear away the next. This is a book I could have, and still want, to read forever. I did not want it to end so lost I became, not just in the story and the characters Ann Patchett so vividly brings to life, but also in the words and way she tells her story. This book is quite simply marvellous. This is an American Classic in the making.

— Jon Page

dryuBEST CRIME FICTION

THE DRY BY JANE HARPER

A small farming community in the grip of drought is rocked by the murder-suicide of a young local family. Farms are failing, tensions are high and almost no one is surprised that the stress has finally gotten to Luke Hadler. It is his final actions which have filled the town with horror.

Aaron Falk returns to farewell his childhood friend but he’s not welcome. His family were run out of town when Aaron and Luke were just kids and he’s never been back. Questions surrounding a 20 year old suicide and Falk’s part in it are reignited and an already tense situation becomes a tinderbox. The community is split and those who wish Faulk gone are not shy in making their opinions felt. All he wants is the truth and in finding that to maybe bring comfort to Luke’s grieving parents… and to himself. Yet finding the truth among so many secrets and lies is never an easy thing.

Jane Harper vividly portrays the harshness and beauty of the Australian landscape and the small-town prejudices and petty grievances which escalate under the unrelenting Australian sun. The twists and turns will leave you in turns gasping from surprise and then in anticipation as each time you think you have it all worked out and you realise you don’t. This is a page-turner in the truest sense of the word. You will not be able to put this book down.

A single spark is all it will take to ignite a whole town. A single page is all it will take to have you hooked!

— Kate Page

everyone-braveBEST HISTORICAL FICTION

EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN BY CHRIS CLEAVE

This is a truly wonderful novel that captures the outbreak of the Second World War in London. We follow Mary North, who from the war’s outset, is determined to use this tumultuous time to change the status quo. Mary is from a well to do family and rather than rest on her family name she wants to get involved in the war effort. She signs up immediately with dreams of becoming a spy or being involved in the newly forming war machine. Instead she is assigned as a school teacher and sent off to prepare the school children of London for evacuation. Mary takes this all in her stride and is even more determined to throw herself wholeheartedly into her new vocation.

Through Mary we meet Tom whose job it is to organise the schooling of those not evacuated. We also meet Tom’s roommate Alistair, an art restorer at the Tate, who also signs up immediately and is sent to France. Through Tom and Alistair we explore another side of the war; the guilt of those who stay behind and the transformation of those from civilian to soldier. After surviving the disaster at Dunkirk Alistair is transferred to Malta, where like those in London, he must survive the endless siege from the air of the Germans.

Cleave expertly captures the early days of the war with everybody disbelieving it can possibly be as bad as the government is trying to prepare them for. When the blitz does begin, much to everyone’s shock and sincere disappointment, he skillfully portrays the change of mood and stiff upper lip attitude employed by Londoners to get by. He contrasts all this with Alistair’s experience of the war showing that despite the contrasts between the Homefront and the frontlines there are also many similarities. Survival and sanity the key ones in both. As the war progresses Cleave conveys the steadfastness of this demeanour, both in London and in Malta, despite everything that happens to the contrary.

This is a truly amazing novel that left me shattered at many different moments. I haven’t read such an original take on the Second World War like this since Life After Life and A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, and those were both streets ahead of any other novel of the last ten to fifteen years. Cleave captures the spirit of a people so subtly and honestly and how that spirit is harnessed in order to survive. The sense of humour in the book is pitch perfect; dark, sardonic, self-deprecating, infused with camaraderie. At the same time Cleave also shows the darker side of human behaviour.

— Jon Page

 secret-recBEST ROMANCE

THE SECRET RECIPE FOR SECOND CHANCES BY J.D. BARRETT

Lucy’s husband is a liar, a cheat and a recipe stealer so she is leaving him and their popular Sydney restaurant. The only problem is she has no money and no idea what comes next! When she stumbles across the dilapidated remains of the once famous Woolloomoloo restaurant, Fortune, it feels like fate. Except there is a catch – and he’s moody and handsome with a penchant for women. Which is exactly what she doesn’t need. With a lovable, quirky cast of characters JD Barrett’s debut is a little bit Mostly Martha and a little bit Ratatouille!

— Kate Page

dark-matterBEST SCIENCE FICTION

DARK MATTER BY BLAKE CROUCH

Dark Matter is an unabashed science fiction thriller. If the thought of multi-dimension travel – of our protagonist traversing alternate worlds – is too much of a leap from the grounded reality in which you prefer your fiction, okay, fair enough, perhaps this one’s not for you. But for everybody else, willing and able to suspend their disbelief, and accept the parameters of Crouch’s fiction, Dark Matter is a relentless and thrilling ride. What glues it together – what makes this novel work – is its heart. Dark Matter is a love story – punctuated with action and science fiction elements, certainly – but its romantic core, one man’s desire to reunite with his wife and son, is what makes the novel tick along.

Dark Matter is about the roads not taken. It’s about the choices we make – those large, momentous decisions we identify as important, and the smaller ones we barely recognise. Jason Dessen chose his family over his career as a physicist; so too his wife Daniela, who gave up her dream of being an artist. It’s not a decision they regret – they’re a content family unit, blessed with a teenage son – but inevitably there are moments when they wonder what might have been. And thanks to the Jason Dessen from an alternate reality – a world in which he focused on his career in science rather than his family, and created a multidimensional travel device – our Jason is about to discover what might’ve been.

Crouch sends Dessen to a range of close-but-not quite realities as he attempts to find his journey home, to his wife, to his son. In putting Dessen through such an emotional rollercoaster we bear witness to some truly gut-wrenching and poignant scenes. And just when you think the novel’s demonstrated all it’s got to offer – that Crouch is leading readers down a thrilling, but somewhat routine path as Dessen attempts to return to his world – he throws a curveball; an unforeseen plot twist that raises the states even higher, and propels the narrative through to its fitting climax.

Plenty of fiction has explored the idea of multidimensional travel, but rather than focus on the science, Dark Matterkeeps the reader riveted because of its heart. How far is one man willing to go to reunite with his family? How much can he witness before he loses himself? You’ll tear through Dark Matter in one sitting to find out. Truly, it’s one of the best thrillers I’ve read in years.

— Simon McDonald

fireman-joe-hillBEST HORROR

THE FIREMAN BY JOE HILL

Cormac McCarthy’s literary masterpiece The Road presents a hopeless, post-apocalyptic world navigated by an adult and a child. The specifics of the extinction event are not clarified. It doesn’t matter why society crumbled, just that it has, because all that matters for its populace now is survival. The Road is a novel about the repercussions of the unspecified catastrophe that decimated society; decidedly post-crisis. Joe Hill’s The Fireman takes a different route, set at the very beginning of society’s decline, as the Dragonscale pandemic seizes hold, drawing patterns on people’s skin and eventually literally igniting them, causing them to spontaneously combust. Whereas the characters in The Road are surrounded by nothing but absolute despair, in The Fireman trappings of pre-pandemic lives still exist; tangible reminders of what once was. Both worlds are perpetually dangerous and unpredictable. And both novels are hallmarks of the narrative malleability of the post-apocalyptic concept.

Though operatic in scope, The Fireman is centred firmly around Harper Grayson, a school nurse who becomes a volunteer at her local hospital when society starts to decay, and school becomes a thing of the past. When Harper discovers she, too, is infected by Dragonscale — and pregnant! — she vows to bring her baby safely into the world. Her husband Jakob has other ideas, disgusted by the mere thought of bringing another human into a world such as this, and attacks Harper, determined to abort her life and their child’s. During her escape she encounters John Rockwood — the near-mythical figure known as The Fireman — who welcomes her into a secluded camp of infected survivors, who have learned to control their infection. Jakob, meanwhile, joins the Cremation Crews; marauders who kill the infected on sight. Thus, the board is set, the terrain unknown. Husband and wife are destined to meet again; the question is, in what circumstances?

Survival in a Dragonscale-infected world is unglamorous, and Joe Hill doesn’t pull any punches as he exposes readers to the bleak reality of a world beginning its rapid spiral. He showcases a warped evangelical religion based on ‘the bright’ – an aftereffect of the Dragonscale infection – and demonstrates, as these types of stories so often do, that man’s greatest threat to its own survival is itself rather than the wider crisis. The characters that populate these pages are diverse and vibrant, with distinct follies and histories. Harper is an empathetic heroine, far stronger than we (and she) first realise; desperately clinging onto survival against all odds, as everything she’s ever known degenerates. The Fireman is a mammoth tome: to work, it needs a superior protagonist, and Hill has granted his readers a supremely memorable one.

The Fireman is Joe Hill’s most ambitious novel yet, and will inevitably be compared to his father’s seminal work. The thing is, these comparisons are warranted. Hill’s latest novel is indeed reminiscent of Stephen King’s greatest work – but never derivative. Like King, Hill is a master storyteller – it’s in his blood, clearly – and this novel elevates him into a new literary stratosphere. It has been a long, long time since I was last able to lose myself in an epic like this.

— Simon McDonald

mothersBEST DEBUT

THE MOTHERS BY BRIT BENNETT

The Mothers is an outstanding debut novel: an engaging, poignant, and thought-provoking read about the importance of motherhood, and the hardships faced by girls who don’t have a female figure in their lives to help guide them. Bennett’s novel explores friendship, the impact of secrets, and the consequences of disloyalty, as three teenagers grow into young adults. Most importantly, it bestows insight into the lives of middle-class people of colour; a viewpoint I’ve rarely seen explored in all my years reading fiction, which is possibly my own fault — I don’t go looking for such stories, when I really should — but equally, such stories don’t seem to be published, which says a lot about the state of the industry, sure, but also about readers’ willingness to read such tales. As author Angela Flournoy put it in a New York Times article: “Writing about ordinary black people is actually extraordinary. It’s absolutely its own form of advocacy.” That’s the point, I think: teenagers Nadia, Luke and Aubrey could easily be characters of any race. Their coming-of-age story — their interwoven destinies — has nothing to do with their race.

Few novels are as poetically searing as Brit Bennett’s The Mothers. Few books are able to say so much with so little. These three teens are united by the hardships they’ve already been exposed to: Nadia’s mother committed suicide, leaving no note, no explanation; Luke’s promising football career was ended by a freak injury; and Aubrey was forced away from home because of her abusive stepfather. When Nadia learns she’s carrying Luke’s baby, she decides not to keep it; Luke reluctantly scrounges the money for the abortion. It becomes their secret, which endures, leakily, for decades; it brings them together and tears them apart, time and time again, trailing them into adulthood. Even though I sensed where the story was headed, and the heartbreak that awaited, I couldn’t put the book down. I was crushed, repeatedly, by the ill-fated decisions made by the trio; but I continued reading, hoping for the best.

The eponymous “mothers” of the Upper Room church community serve as the novel’s narrator — their introspection frames Bennett’s novel — but if I’m honest, the conceit feels a little forced and unnecessary. There’s no need for the meta narrative, and it can be a tad intrusive at times; but in no way does it detract from the brilliance of Bennett’s debut.

Truly one of my favourite books of the year.

— Simon McDonald

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homo-deusBEST NON-FICTION

HOMO DEUS BY YUVAL NOAH HARARI

The author of Sapiens — also a must-read — returns with another enthralling work of potent brain fuel. Seriously, whatever Yuval Noah Harari writes, I will read. And I’m not a guy who reads a ton of non-fiction.

This time, Harari explains humanity’s rise and ponders our future. He poses that humanism is the dominant ideology of the modern age, but warns it carries the seeds of its own destruction.  Homo Deus is less of a prophecy and more of a conversation: what sort of future do we want? Human nature will be transformed in the 21st century — into what? 

Whether or not you agree with Harari’s assertions and proclamations, his latest work is highly captivating.  Will his outlandish visions come to pass? Well, who knows? But the very idea of it’s possibility — that it might happen — is chilling.

— Simon McDonald

paul-ham-paschBEST HISTORY

PASSCHENDAELE BY PAUL HAM

Paul Ham reaffirms his status as one of the best current Australian historians writing today, taking his astute eye to the devastating battle of Passchendaele. This is not a history book solely about Australia’s involvement in the Flanders campaign of 1917. This is an all-encompassing look at the events and the situation that led to the battle and the wholesale slaughter of over half a million men. Ham combs through the histories and memoirs of those involved on both sides and all ranks, wading through the lies and falsehoods, myths and legends, excuses and justifications that have festered over the decades to put together a picture of a battle that somehow exceeded the horrors of The Somme and Verdun only a year before.

Paul Ham primarily explores how a toxic relationship between Prime Minister Lloyd George and Field Marshall Douglas Haig allowed an offensive to go ahead whose only true goal was absolute attrition. He shows how the lessons learned during the butchery of The Somme about tactics (tactics that could preserve men’s lives and actually gain ground;  the creeping barrage, bite and hold) were not employed due to the weather and in some cases battles went ahead with no artillery support at all. Ham demonstrates that the immense casualties on both sides were not some catastrophe or blunder of leadership but planned for, expected and deemed necessary and shows how those in a position to stop the carnage did nothing, putting personal grievances ahead of the lives of over 500,000 men.

This is a book not only for all Australians to read but New Zealanders, Britons, French and Germans as well. Paul Ham puts this battle and consequently The First World War in its context of the time, not some revisionist context in light of subsequent events and conflicts. This a cutting, insightful and moving look at one of the bloodiest and most futile battles of the First World War.

— Jon Page

hate-raceBEST MEMOIR

THE HATE RACE BY MAXINE BENEBA CLARKE

I don’t read short story collections and I certainly never read biographies or memoirs. Maxine has now blown me away writing both. She has been described as “a powerful new voice in Australian literature”. I’d like to make a few adjustments to that quote. Maxine Beneba Clarke is the powerful voice of Australian literature. Reading Foreign Soil was like being introduced to a raw power. Like most short story collections there were stories that burst out of the book and others that slowly simmered but in every story Maxine’s power as a writer was apparent and you came away from the collection knowing that when she turned her attention to one subject, one narrative for a whole book, it was going to be something to behold. And that is exactly what she had done with The Hate Race turning her attention on herself and her childhood growing up in Western Sydney.

Maxine recounts the story of her parent’s emigration to Australia from England in the early days after The White Australia policy was dismantled by The Whitlam Government of the 1970s. She tells her story growing up in Western Sydney as one of the few families of colour and the systemic, casual, overt and unrelenting racism she had to deal with from kindergarten through to high school; from teachers, parents and classmates alike. She shows how that affected her, how that changed her, how that made her who she is and how it unmade who she is. At times it is painful to read and at other times infuriating. Anger that is tempered by your own shame when you remember similar incidents from your own childhood growing up where you looked the other way, did or said nothing or maybe even contributed in one way or another through your own ignorance of what was going on around you and the pain it was causing. Maxine recounts all this with humour, humility and honesty.

For anyone who thinks Australia isn’t a racist country, read this book. For anyone who thinks casual racism isn’t hurtful, read this book. For anyone who thinks Australia has changed a lot in the last 30 years, read this book. For anyone that has ignored a racist comment because they haven’t wanted to get involved, read this book. For anyone who wants to know what Australia is really like, read this book.

There are books that are often described as important. It is a phrase that can get thrown about a bit too much and it’s true meaning gets lost or is diminished. But every now and then a book comes along that makes you sit up. A book that quite literally takes your breath away. Sucks it out of you and it is not until you stop reading that you truly notice what the book has done. A book that opens your eyes to something you knew was there but have failed to really acknowledge. A book that confronts you with its honesty and raw emotion. A book you wish everybody around you would read so that they too can have the same realization. A book like that is important. Maxine Beneba Clarke has written a very important book. An extraordinary book. A truly remarkable and powerful book. A book I hope as many people as possible will read.

— Jon Page

cooks-tableBEST COOKBOOK

THE COOK’S TABLE BY STEPHANIE ALEXANDER

In this milestone book, The Cook’s Table, Stephanie Alexander shares some of her favourite menus, most precious memories, and decades of experience in the kitchen, to make any dinner party you are planning a special occasion.

Featuring 25 menus ranging from far and wide to close at hand, Stephanie begins each menu with an introduction, sharing the particular moments from her life that inspired each one. From trips to Peru, Italy and Istanbul to memories such as creating a ground breaking Valentine’s Day menu at Stephanie’s Restaurant and remembering Elizabeth David.

Each menu provides a meticulous timetable for the cook, starting days leading up to your dinner party, to the morning of, right up to minutes before your guests arrive. The essence of Stephanie’s planning is to be away from the table as little as possible, so as not to miss out on those valuable moments and stories shared with friends and family.

Every dish in this book can be successfully made by a careful home cook. They are seasonally minded and cater to modern palates while respecting traditional methods and flavours. The vibrant photography from acclaimed photographer Mark Chew bring Stephanie’s wonderful menus to life.

The Cook’s Table will sit alongside all your other Stephanie Alexander favourites to be read, shared, cooked from and enjoyed for years to come.

patienceBEST GRAPHIC NOVEL

PATIENCE BY DANIEL CLOWES

In Daniel Clowes’s Patience, things go terribly awry when Jack Barlow attempts to travel through time to circumvent his wife’s murder.

In 2012, mere days after discovering he is going to be a father, Jack returns home from his dead-end job and finds Patience sprawled out on their living room floor. Immediately the police’s number one suspect, when Jack is eventually cleared of the crime, he makes it his life’s mission to avenge his wife’s death. Patience was the one good thing in life. Without her, he has nothing.

But things don’t quite go as Jack planned. When the book smash-cuts to 2029 we find a much harder, far more jaded – and older, obviously – Jack Barlow sitting in a futuristic bar, relaying his crapped out life to a barman. He never avenged Patience – though he tried, the crime remains unsolved – and the passing of time has only further sullied his soul. A chance encounter with a hooker leads to his discovery of a time machine, and the concoction of a new plan: why take vengeance when he can eradicate the entire event from the timeline?

Like everything else Jack touches though, he ends up making more of a mess of things. As he bears witness to key events in Patience’s teenage years – learning about the multiple hardships and abusers she encountered – his incessant interventions start affecting the timeline. And veteran science fiction readers, and those schooled on time travel will know: it’s not a good idea to mess with what’s come before, because there’s no telling where the new chips might fall.

Part science fiction epic, part love story, Patience brims with heart and soul. Clowes’s focus on the emotions of his characters rather than the physics of time travel elevates the book above stories of a similar ilk. While Jack’s quest to change the timeline is the book’s driving force, it’s the insights into Patience’s youth that proves the most captivating aspect. Truly a stunning graphic novel, and a worthy addition to Daniel Clowes’s collection of stunning masterworks. This sits proudly alongside Adrian Tomine’s Killing and Dying as one of the best graphic novels of the year.

— Simon McDonald

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deep-blueBEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK

WORDS IN DEEP BLUE BY CATH CROWLEY

This is a beautiful book about love, loss, literature and growing up.

After moving away and losing touch with her friends, Rachel Sweetie returns to town. She is working at Howling Books, grieving for her brother Cal, and trying not to be in love with Henry Jones.

— Talie Gottlieb



fennBEST BOOK FOR YOUNG READERS

FENN HALFIN AND THE FEARZERO BY FRANCESCA ARMOUR-CHELU

One of my passions as a bookseller is reading fantastic kids books. I have always felt that some children’s books are have better storylines than adult books. Fenn Halflin and the Fearzero is one of those titles.

Fenn Halflin has spent his life hidden away in the swamplands with his Grandfather. He longs for the freedom to live in the world outside – to have a bit of excitement in his life. The world however is not safe and he is in danger if anyone finds out about him.

Water levels are rising and land is becoming scarce. The land dwellers have built a wall and without a permit no Seafarer is allowed to live on land. Life is tough. Resources are dwindling and the dreaded Terra Firma, under the control of their leader Chilstone, patrol the waterways destroying boats always searching for something (or someone). The Resistance was crushed years ago but there is a rumour of a baby that escaped Chilstone’s clutches. They say this baby might save them all.

Francesca Armour-Chelu has created a world at once recognisable, yet not. Fenns world could be a very real future for us all if we continue to ignore the environmental damage we are creating. I am not normally a fan of kids books that deal with “Issues” however, Francesca explores the themes of migration, refugees, the uneven distribution of the world’s resources and global warming with subtlety. Kids will read Fenn Halflin and the Fearzero purely as a great adventure story but hopefully subconsciously they might take away some ideas about how we need to look after our planet and the people on it in equal measures.

Fenn Halflin and the Fearzero is a rollicking adventure story which had me completely hooked from the very first chapter! Resistance fighters, bad guys, kids using their wits to outsmart evil adults, friendship, sacrifice, and fulfilling ones destiny – Fenn Halflin and the Fearzero is at times part Mad Max, part Oliver Twist and part Waterworld. I absolutely cannot wait for part two to find out the conclusion of this thrill-ride of a book.

— Kate Page


OUR ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD BOOK REVIEWER RECOMMENDS….

turners-1THE TURNERS BY MICK ELLIOTT

On his thirteenth birthday, Leo grows a tail and turns into a Komodo Dragon in the middle of the library! He finds out that he is a Turner, and can turn into any animal he thinks of, but must keep it a secret! He must fight Vipermen, hairless hamsters and flesh eating pigs! I enjoyed this so much and it was very funny, too! I couldn’t put it down!

turners-2THE TURNERS: CAMP FREAKOUT BY MICK ELLIOTT

Leo has finally persuaded Vernon and Abbie to go to school camp, but he soon finds out that it’s a big mistake! Disgusting camp foods (which might be poisonous), turnimals (animals that can turn!), a strange shy boy and nasty bullies. Will Leo survive the horrors of school camp?

The Turners are in danger! An evil mastermind has made a monster race and Leo is the secret ingredient to finish these horrible monsters! Will he stop the fiendish plot? Find out in the 2nd book in this awesome series!

I loved this book even more than the first one! The Turners Camp Freakout is such a funny adventure and I couldn’t put it down! It has a surprise twist at the end AND a cliffhanger til book 3! This series is truly amazing! The turnimals are a very creative idea and it came at the perfect time – just before most schools go for camp! I can’t wait for book 3 to find out what happens next to Leo, Abbie and the rest of the turners whose secret lives are at stake!

— Molly (age 11)


rabbit-and-bearBEST BOOK FOR EARLY READERS

RABBIT AND BEAR BY JULIAN GOUGH AND JIM FIELD

They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but it’s hard not to when you see this fabulously illustrated book!

It’s my favourite children’s book of the year because of the laugh-out-loud, fun, tale of friendship, not to forget a little bit of poo. Young children will delight in this new series (the second book is out in January 2017) brimming with humour and adventure, with a wild fox chase, snow men and avalanches.

— Jan Ekins

ada-twistBEST PICTURE BOOK

ADA TWIST, SCIENTIST BY ANDREA BEATTY

It only takes a few seconds to fall in love with this curious little girl. Inspired by scientists, Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, Ada Marie Twist starts exploring the world around her as soon as she turns three. Ada’s constant questions and curiosity teaches children that the most effective way to know the world is through exploration and asking questions. Similar to Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer, Ada inspires children to follow their intuition and be creative. Ada Twist, Scientist is among the few examples of picture books that wisely depicts a powerful passionate girl who wants to learn more about science.

— Mahsa Salamati


WHAT WERE YOUR FAVOURITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR?

Review: The Lost And Found by Katrina Leno

The Lost And Found by Katrina Leno is a precious little bookish creature built for anxious people with internet friendships. It’s so very relatable! I immediately felt at home with the teens who confessed it’s easier to make friends online sometimes. (YES IT IS.)

Although, be ye warned: It’s actually contemporary with a slight dose of magical realism. The magical aspect isn’t going to drown you, but it’s still there. Things go “missing” in the story and end up appearing in impossible places.

9780062231208What’s It About?

Frannie and Louis met online when they were both little and have been pen pals ever since. They have never met face-to-face, and they don t know each other s real names. All they know is that they both have a mysterious tendency to lose things. Well, really, things just seem to . . . disappear.FOUNDLouis and Frannie both receive news in the mail that sets them off on a road trip to Austin, Texas, looking for answers and each other. Along the way, each one begins to find, as if by magic, important things the other has lost. And by the time they finally meet in person, they realize that the things you lose might be things you weren’t meant to have at all, and that you never know what you might find if you just take a chance.

The story is dual narrated by Frances and Louis. Both narrators have very distinct voices and I was invested in both their lives. Frances lives with her grandparents because her own parents are pretty crazy. And she’s wondering if a famous movie star is actually her father. Louis has severe PTSD and anxiety after his twin sister fell out of a window and lost both her legs. And he’s a tennis champ. And he’s not sure if he should move off to college. Because anxiety.

I adored Louis and his twin sister, Willa. Their relationship was fantastic and full of sibling banter and tension. Willa’s really matter-of-fact about her disability and basically lets nothing stop her. She puts up with stares and discrimination over it, but it doesn’t get her down.

The story also is full of diversity! Louis and Willa are half-Indian. Willa has no legs. France’s adopted cousin, Arrow, is Vietnamese. It talks openly and honestly about anxiety disorders.

I also am a huge fan of the way it portrayed internet friendships! So often I see books only outline all the horrible things that can happen on the internet…but that’s not always how it goes down, okay?! Sometimes you meet the nicest most special people online! Louis and Frances had been friends online for several years before they decided to meet up. I mean, they were safe about the meet up. They took friends for backup. But ultimately, it was all sweet and real! It’s a great reminder of the power of internet friendships.

As for the magical realism aspect? Both Frances and Louis are always LOSING stuff. It just disappears. I did like this a lot, because when you have anxiety, you actually often lose track of things. So I appreciate how it added in something real like that, but put in a magical twist.

Ultimately, this book resonated with me so much! Coupling internet friendships with accurate portrayal of mental illness and witty banter and delicious tacos…I had no choice but to adore it! It’s also entirely quotable and precious. The writing was utter perfection and it was fast and easy to read, yet complex and poignant.

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Best Historical Fiction YA Books

I grew up reading historical fiction so I have an insurmountable love for it. It always brings back memories, you know?! Glorious memories of a childhood spent between book pages…and in tears because, let’s face it: WWII books are ALWAYS devastating. Actually history in general can be altogether nasty. But it makes such good stories.

And today’s list is about my top YA historical fiction picks. They’ll probably all make you cry. I’m not even sorry for recommending them.

 

H I S T O R I C A L   F I C T I O N

 

9781405258210 9781405265119 9780152051600

  • CODE NAME VERITY: This book had me absolutely sobbing. It is such a powerful story of two girls blazing paths of feministic glory in WWII. One is a pilot. The other is a spy. It will probably break your heart. (Just warning you.) But must be, without a doubt, one of the best books I’ve ever read.
  • ROSE UNDER FIRE: This is a companion novel to the above, but can be read alone! It’s a little quicker in pacing and focuses on Rose, a WWII pilot, who gets caught by the Germans and put in a concentration camp. Again: tears. It’s so beautifully and emotionally written.
  • I AM DAVID: This is a bit of an old book, but still a story that absolutely sticks to my soul. David was born in a concentration camp, so when he escapes he has basically ZERO social skills or understanding of the world. It is so sad/sweet to see him struggling to fit into society and also find a home. BREAK MY HEART WHY DON’T YOU, WWII STORIES.

 

9781472207845 9780399168031 9780062242914

  • PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG: Another WWII story, but this one is by the point of view of a German girl who knows Hitler. It’s extremely interesting to read the story from this angle and see how a teenage girl reacts. Plus it shows a more human side to Hitler which is chilling.
  • UNDER A PAINTED SKY: Now let’s zoom backwards to the Gold Rush era! This book just wins for diversity because it features a Chinese protagonist (who’s also a violinist) who is on the run to the gold fields with an escaped slave. Another female friendship that is totally awesome!
  • WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER: Another goldrush book! But this one has a hint of magical fantasy in it too, since Lee can magically “detect gold”. Talk about handy right? Until it gets your family killed. Ahem. This is more about the journey towards California, but the writing is just ridiculously beautiful.

 

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  • A MAD AND WICKED FOLLY: Time for Women’s Rights! HUZZAH! This is about the suffragette movement…and Victoria’s quest to be a painter and artist and not just get shuffled off to be married to some guy.
  • LIES WE TELL OURSELVES: This is set in 1959, where a group of black students are attending an all-white highschool. It talks honestly and brutally about the racism of that time…and oh gosh, people’s actions just made me so sick. It’s definitely a very important story to be told.
  • THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH: This is a slightly paranormal twist on the early 1900s, where Love and Death are personified people and have this “game” where they see if two unlikely people will get together. (Death trying to break them up; Love getting them together.) It’s a romance between an African-American musician and a white orphan boy…and in that era the odds are pretty much not in their favour. And oh is this book incredible!

 

 

2015 YA Debuts You Should Catch Up On

It’s nearly 2016 (sheesh, how did that happen?!?) and, if you’re anything like me, there’s no WAY you’ve read all the 2015 releases that you wanted to. And pretty soon there’ll be an onslaught of NEW books that will demand your attention and your soul and other minor things.

But there are several Young Adult debut authors you really cannot miss. Especially when most of them have new books coming out in 2016! Debut books can be tricky beasts, because often you can tell the author isn’t a pro yet. But this list? Ohhhh, my friends, these authors are already so stunningly talented, I can barely WAIT to see what their next novels will hold!

 

2 0 1 5     Y A    D E B U T S

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  • MADE YOU UP: This is such an important book because it’s about a girl with schizophrenia, but it’s not about her schizophrenia. Her illness doesn’t solely define her, and I think that’s a really important message. Plus it’s gorgeously written.
  • THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY: Okay but WOW, this book is creepy! It’s about cults and murders and juvie — and the protagonist has no hands.
  • SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA: This is probably the most adorable LGBT book of the year. All the characters are entirely relatable and realistic. Don’t get me wrong — I do love a contemporary where the characters wax poetic with soliloquies of love and meaning. But I also love books that are awkward and realistic. Plus there are Oreos in here. So. many. Oreos.

 

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  • THE WRATH AND THE DAWN: Definitely one of my all time favourite fantasies!! And it’s only a debut?! So I can only imagine the talent this author is going to bring to the table over the years! It’s a Persian folklore retelling of A Thousand and One Nights and has a good dash of magic with a mountain of delicious food descriptions.
  • DENTON’S LITTLE DEATHDATE: This book is hilarious. It makes fun of death rather ridiculously…so make sure you’re okay with gallows humour before devouring this!
  • BECAUSE YOU’LL NEVER MET ME: This one is told in letters between two boys with unusual disabilities. One is allergic to electricity. One was born with no eyeballs and has a pacemaker. Ergo — they can never meet or they’d kill each other! But the character development is phenomenal and you’ll never guess the ending….

 

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  • FANS OF THE IMPOSSIBLE LIFE: Another super realistically cute contemporary. Why is this one special?! It’s narrated by 3 characters in 1st, 3rd, and 2nd person! The characters basically burst off the page and one character has chronic-fatigue, which I hadn’t read in YA until now!
  • THE ACCIDENT SEASON: It’s beautiful. Absolutely mind-stunningly beautiful. It’s kind of an eerie book, set in October, so it’s all pumpkins and autumn and Halloween. And it’s magical and mysterious and — did I mention — the writing is gorgeous?!?!?
  • FALLING INTO PLACE: This is written by a 16 year old author. TALENT ALERT. It’s not the average contemporary either, because it’s narrated by a childhood imaginary friend. Unique, right?! It’s written in tiny chapters and it’s barely 300 pages so you can eat it in two bites, basically. The author has two books coming out in 2016, so her debut is a MUST read before they arrive!

 

A Glorious List of YA Apocalypse Books

I have a deep love for all books about the end of the world and the apocalypse. It’s exciting! I love the speculation of what could happen. Because zombies could totally happen. Or angels. Or destruction by walking trees. WHO KNOWS.

Today I have a list of Young Adult books about the apocalypse and the end of the world. Some are entertainingly far-fetched but others could totally happen. I love books like these because they make you think and speculate and be grateful for that survivalist horde of peanut butter hidden in your pantry.

~

THE AGE OF MIRACLES [PURCHASE]9781471124853

While I didn’t find this the most fast paced book of ever, it really intrigued me because it could totally happen. It’s more about the psychology of human reactions during the End of the World. The earth is slowing down, days and nights are all messed up, and people are getting sick. Oh, and it’s a coming-of-age story about Julia becoming a teen. She has a crush. The world is ending. Her mother is hoarding peanut butter (not a bad plan). People are dying. It felt so realistic.

 

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NOT A DROP TO DRINK [PURCHASE]

This is probably my all-time favourite apocalypse story! It focuses on “what if water was precious?” which is an excellent point because humans just don’t do well without water. It’s about Lynne, who has a pond, which is like gold, and she has to protect it or lose it. I adored the blunt, crisp writing style too, and Lynne was tough as anything.

 

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THE SKY SO HEAVY [PURCHASE]

This is an excellent Australian end of the world story and, like The Age of Miracles, it’s so realistic! I could totally imagine things going down like this if nuclear warfare started. It’s really gritty and oh it’ll pull at your heart strings. Also it’s about two brothers trying to find their parents and survive and stick together. I’m such a sucker for sibling stories so this is an insta-win for me.

 

9780062201812THE END GAMES [PURCHASE]

But we totally need a moment for zombies…oh don’t look at me like that. It could totally happen! And how better to speculate than to read a zombified book about a teen pretending the entire apocalypse is just a computer game — to get his little brother through it without panicking. (See?! I told you I love sibling stories!) It has a computer game vibe and it’s very emotional and the characters are so intensely amazing.

 

9780761463276ANGELFALL [PURCHASE]

Angels and demons ruling the earth is also totally plausible. (Do not doubt this.) I particularly love this trilogy because it’s really dark and gritty and doesn’t shy away from how the depraved the world could become with no rules. It features a meltable romance between a tough, sensible protagonist (Penryn) and a wingless angel (Raffe) and it’s full of snark and sass.

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TOMORROW WHEN THE WAR BEGAN [PURCHASE]

And of course I need to finish up with this iconic apocalypse novel set in rural Australia. It’s about a group of teens who go camping in the bush…only to come home and find their hometown has been taken over by foreign soldiers. It’s about guerrilla warfare and how war changes you.

 

Tell us your favourite book of 2014 and WIN!

97803565025642014 is drawing to a close and what another fantastic year of books and reading it has been. To celebrate we are giving away 8 copies of one of our favourite books of 2014; The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (you can read our review here). All you have to do is tell your favourite book of 2014.

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2) Share this Post on Facebook, Retweet or share on Google+

3) Be an active member of Boomerang Books (sign up here and get a $5 credit)

4) Tell us your favourite book of 2014

Entries close 5pm AEST Friday December 19.

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9780356504582And if you’ve already read The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August look out for her new novel, Touch, due out in March 2015.